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Deciding on a weather window

Nov 14, 2019

Charlie Humphries

Editor's note: This was written by Ocean Navigator's own Charlie Humphries regarding a delivery of the 100-foot Swan Virago from Newport to Antigua.  

Back in the 80s when we were getting ready for a journey south, it seemed so much simpler. We’d wait for a low pressure system to pass by and then jump on the backside of it and ride the north westerlies as long as they lasted. We might reach out to Jennifer Clark to learn what the Gulf Stream was doing and look for a warm eddy or we might just hope we got lucky. We weren’t reckless by any means but we were young, we were keen, we were up for most anything: We’d deal with whatever we got: almost always ducking in to Bermuda.

We were sailing smaller boats then so whether it was for fuel, food or a wee break from some tough weather, Bermuda was always a welcome refuge. There was one year my friend Richard and I and two gals (one Swedish, one South African) sailed from Pilots Point, Conn. to Bermuda in 45 hours in a Swan 48; rather exhilarating. We didn’t have Time Zero and grib files and forward-looking weather forecasting.

Presently we are underway in a Swan 100 with all the bells and whistles. It took us three days of looking at the forecast to decide which was our best option. Do we leave in very light southerlies and motor the first 24 hours and then catch then fair winds that would follow and hope we stay ahead of the powerful front (up to 40 knots of NE’ly) that would be approaching and try to beat it to trades, or do we wait a day and leave in Northerlies then pop in to Bermuda for 30 hours and let the powerful front pass and ride its coat tails quick and comfy to trades. Weather is dynamic and so with all the information at hand and the forecast accuracy, decisions become harder. Part of it may be that we are all older and aren’t the sailors we used to be. Or perhaps we’ve become smarter and use the modern tools to provide a safer, more comfortable passage.

Since we have been sailing bigger boats none of us has had to stop in Bermuda and have not for quite some time. In the end, we thought stopping in Bermuda would be the better sailing option, the more comfortable option and likely the safer option. 

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